On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation creating the National Park Service, which now manages over 84 million acres in 50 states.
That same year, St. Joseph’s College opened its doors to 12 students, all women, in Brooklyn. Today the school educates about 5,300 students on two campuses, the second in Patchogue, and has an alumni network of more than 33,000 people worldwide.
On Saturday the two institutions got together on Fire Island, each recognizing 100 years with a celebration of the arts, science and our Long Island culture at Watch Hill.
“It’s not just a milestone; it’s a great opportunity for us to highlight what each other does,” said Carrie Bhada, St. Joseph’s vice president of institutional advancement. “What better way to celebrate than taking advantage of all of the resources from both organizations?”
About 100 people from St. Joseph’s, including students, faculty and alumni, as well as Park Service personnel, hopped aboard a ferryboat in Patchogue Sunday.
That number also included volunteers with the Friends of Fire Island National Seashore nonprofit group.
Once at Watch Hill, they were treated to biology professor-guided nature walks through the salt marsh, maritime forest and ocean beach, as well as opportunities to paint together en plein air under the guidance of Dawn Lee, St. Joseph’s art department chair.
The day also featured a marine seining, which involves dragging a net through the surf and examining the marine life the net turns up, such as crabs and other invertebrate.
“What my role, and what the Department of Biology wants, is to get people to understand our Long Island, local environment,” said Konstantine Rountos, an assistant professor of biology at St. Joseph’s. “To explore the diversity of marine and estuarine species that we have, in order for them to also explore our unique areas, like our parks.”
The event came out of Friends of Fire Island National Seashore meetings, which are attended by St. Joseph’s College and National Park Service members.
“In the wintertime we were all meeting and realized we shared the same anniversary,” said Kelly Fellner, Fire Island National Seashore’s assistant superintendent.
“We do want to make sure students get more of an awareness,” she said, “not only how they can get out here and play and learn about this place, but be a volunteer, or enroll in our internships, which can help them land a future job.”
“As part of the National Park Service centennial, one of the big themes is to help create the next generations of stewards and advocates for our National Parks,” she added.
The day was capped off with a cocktail reception at The Pier restaurant at Watch Hill.
Fire Island became a National Seashore in 1954.
Top Photo: Incoming St. Joseph’s senior John Baker with biology Profesor Mohammad Rana during Sunday’s nature work through the salt marsh at Watch Hill.